Friday 30 September 2011
Albert Camus asked the famous question "Does Absurd dictate Death?" and answered it in negative. His reasoning was that an individual confronted with the meaninglessness and absurdity of the world has a choice: He can either commit suicide, thereby affirming with his actions the lack of worth and value in life, and accepting the triumph of meaninglessness. Or he can choose to rebel against the Absurd, and choose to live a life of personal creative struggle, all the while in the consciousness of ultimate death. I believe Camus has a genuine reason for saying that Absurd does not dictate death, because it's a choice and one can choose to rebel.
A nihilist, however, would even go so far as to say that Camus's rebellion also has no value, has no meaning, has no worth and is ultimately futile. That this too is mere vanity amidst the "Vanity of vanities". If nothing in life has value, the only way to affirm and live by such a philosophy is to die. An out-and-out Nihilist has no reason whereby he can show that Nihilism does not dictate death.
Tuesday 27 September 2011
The Guardian series of blogposts on Heidegger by Simon Critchley are a rewarding read, and I have discovered a new-found fascination for the philosopher. There is more substance to him beneath the obscurity that meets the first glance.
Gratitude to Qasim Aziz for pointing me in this direction.
"What gets said in the call of conscience? Heidegger is crystal clear: like Cordelia in King Lear, nothing is said. The call of conscience is silent. It contains no instructions or advice. In order to understand this, it is important to grasp that, for Heidegger, inauthentic life is characterised by chatter – for example, the ever-ambiguous hubbub of the blogosphere. Conscience calls Dasein back from this chatter silently. It has the character of what Heidegger calls "reticence" (Verschwiegenheit), which is the privileged mode of language in Heidegger. So, the call of conscience is a silent call that silences the chatter of the world and brings me back to myself."
Simon Critchley, Being and Time, part 7: Conscience, at the Guardian
It seems true; I am at my inauthentic best when I am immersed in and driven by the clamor of life, both online and offline.
"Most people would anyway; most people condemn violence against women—rape, sexual assault, neglect etc etc. We are all advocates for this—that is easy enough at least in theory, but to prevent the unnecessary sexualisation of women, to fight against the kind of environment that makes all these evils persist—that would be more difficult.
I was telling my male friends once that we read a social psych study in class which showed women could sometimes tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace. My female friends agreed—sometimes it gets tiring to have to fight against it all the time, sometimes you don’t want to be seen as uncool, sometimes it even gives you leverage. Sometimes you wonder if men’s energy (or boredom) just knows no boundaries. Most of the time, I’m sure they mean no harm, that they just want a quick laugh or a boost to the conversation. But is precisely these things—normalizing it, telling ourselves it’s okay that lets it thrive, that makes us blind to its existence."
How we look at women, and Why by Joy Icayan at 3QD
Saturday 24 September 2011
The Pressure to Marry
By Awais Aftab
Q. Your parents have been trying to get you engaged and married for quite some time now.
Yes, you cannot imagine the immense pressure I am under. In my family, it is unusual for a girl studying in college to remain unmarried by the time she graduates, let alone stay unengaged. I have graduated and I am still single, while all the cousins of my age group have been married off. My relatives are always telling my parents that if they wait too long, meri umar nikal jaye gee, and I won’t get any good rishtas. Some relatives are even so audacious as to ask if there is something wrong with me. So, understandably, my parents are quite panicky and are desperately trying to get me engaged to secure my future.
Q. How does it make you feel?
Infuriating, of course! Whether I stay single or not, it is none of their business. Why are they so interested in my marriage? And it makes me depressed. It is exhausting to take in all the rubbish people throw at you. I don’t know how long I can keep up.
Q. What is your age?
Q. That isn’t so much. I know of girls much older who are still single and focused on careers.
Such examples are rare and uncommon. Generally, it’s not an acceptable option for girls of most families in Pakistan.
Q. Why don’t you want to get married for now?
I don’t want to marry some guy. I want to marry someone of my own choice, someone with whom I am mentally and emotionally compatible. Furthermore, I want to marry on my own terms. I want to be an independent working woman. I am not someone with an ‘expiry date’ that I have to rush into marriage with the first rishta available. I know that there are girls who are very comfortable with this whole arrangement of marriage, and they themselves want to get married early. Well, good for them, but I am not comfortable with this arrangement, so why should I be pressurised into this?
Q. Are you in a relationship with someone?
Not presently, but I was. It didn't work out. It lasted two to three years. We discovered that we had too many differences, so we both decided to end it. This is also something my parents are really concerned about. They had never approved of the relationship, and even now they feel that it has soiled my reputation so much that I might not get a good rishta any more.
Q. What is your biggest fear at the moment?
I am afraid that my parents will soon lose their patience. Someday I’ll just be informed that my rishta has been finalised with so and so, and I wouldn't really be able to do anything about it. That really scares me and is a source of great anxiety.
Q. Why do you think your parents insist so much that you get married?
They mean well for me in their hearts. They believe that there is only one particular lifestyle that can ensure happiness for a girl, and that is to get married at the right age to a financially settled boy from an honourable and well-off family. With all the rishta competition and the gossips, my parents feel that they have to ensure my future, and that by delaying my marriage, they are risking the happiness of my whole remaining life. Plus, in our society parents have this notion that it is their responsibility to get the children married in the proper way, and they are trying to fulfil that responsibility. Unfortunately, this is not what would bring me any happiness.
Published in Us Magazine 23 September 2011.
Sunday 18 September 2011
In the cardiac surgery ward today, I was approached by the brother of a post-operative patient. The patient had to be given blood transfusions the previous day because of excessive blood loss. He asked me: "Doctor sahib, nurses nay kaha hay kay issay Neshlay (Nestle) ka juice playain. Woh tu bara mehnga aata hay, hamaray pass tu itnay paisay nahi hayn kay Neshlay ka juice laa sakain. Laikin hamaray pass banday hayn jo khoon denay ko tayar hayn. Aisa nahi ho sakta kay aap isay aur khoon laga dayn takay iss ki kamzoori door hojaye aur hamain issay juice na pilana paray." [Doctor, nurses have instructed us to give Nestle juice to the patient to drink. That is very expensive, we don't have enough money to buy it. We do, however, have people who are willing to donate blood. Is it not possible that you may give him another blood transfusion so that his strength is restored without us having to get him the juice?]
I was stunned for a moment, then I explained to him that we cannot transfuse the patient again because it is not required, and that it's not necessary he buys Nestle; whatever brand of juice he can afford to buy, he can get that.
During a conversation, on hearing about someone...
Me: Wanting to get married because of the special treatment engaged/married women get from other people... one of the typical ways by which society controls individuals. Dangling carrots in front of them and denying them unless they do what it wants.
Thursday 15 September 2011
"You will find this question raised in the most principled form in the works of Leo Tolstoi. He came to raise the question in a peculiar way. All his broodings increasingly revolved around the problem of whether or not death is a meaningful phenomenon. And his answer was: for civilized person death has no meaning. It has none because the individual life of civilized man, placed into an infinite 'progress,' according to its own imminent meaning should never come to an end; for there is always a further step ahead of one who stands in the march of progress. And no person who comes to die stands upon the peak which lies in infinity. Abraham, or some peasant of the past, died 'old and satiated with life' because he stood in the organic cycle of life; because his life, in terms of its meaning and on the eve of his days, had given to him what life had to offer; because for him there remained no puzzles he might wish to solve; and therefore he could have had 'enough' of life. Whereas civilized man, placed in the midst of the continuous enrichment of culture by ideas, knowledge, and problems, may become 'tired of life' but not 'satiated with life.' He catches only the most minute part of what the life of the spirit brings forth ever anew, and what he seizes is always something provisional and not definitive, and therefore death for him is a meaningless occurrence. And because death is meaningless, civilized life as such is meaningless; by its very 'progressiveness' it gives death the imprint of meaninglessness. Throughout his late novels one meets with this thought as the keynote of the Tolstoyan art."
Wednesday 14 September 2011
"The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the 'disenchantment of the world.' Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations. It is not accidental that our greatest art is intimate and not monumental, nor is it accidental that today only within the smallest and intimate circles, in personal human situations, in pianissimo, that something is pulsating that corresponds to the prophetic pneuma, which in former times swept through the great communities like a firebrand, welding them together. If we attempt to force and to 'invent' a monumental style in art, such miserable monstrosities are produced as the many monuments of the last twenty years. If one tries intellectually to construe new religions without a new and genuine prophecy, then, in an inner sense, something similar will result, but with still worse effects. And academic prophecy, finally, will create only fanatical sects but never a genuine community."
Max Weber, Science as a Vocation
Tuesday 6 September 2011
From the article Religious art is about being human at Guardian by Sophia Deboick:
'Even the most iconic of religious artworks can have profound meanings for the nonbeliever. Grünewald's depiction of the crucifixion on the Isenheim Altarpiece is one of the most wrenching in the history of western religious art, showing an apparently rotting Christ, his flesh pierced with thorns, his feet and hands horribly contorted. Here is an image that, for the Christian, emphasises the extreme sacrifice of the crucifixion, but here is also human suffering, disease and grief (powerfully depicted in Mary Magdalen's anguished hand-wringing and the Virgin's swoon). That it was painted for the hospital chapel of St Anthony's monastery in Isenheim, where those suffering from ergotism-induced gangrene were treated, underscores that it had more to say about body than soul to its intended observers.
Religious art, arguably like religion itself, ultimately deals with the trials of being human, and this is something those of all faiths and none can share in. The pope is right when he says that "art can express and render visible humanity's need to go beyond what one sees, revealing a thirst and quest for the infinite", but that "infinite" is the unfathomable in ourselves, whether we call that "God" or not.'